Fran & Skip Sykes Wedding Day
Frances “Fran” Sykes W’59 recalls having to meet the Amherst soccer coach of her fiancé Donald “Skip” Sykes ’59 before the match was officially approved. Coach Steve Rostas was like a father-figure to Skip, and his influence was profound.

According to Fran, Skip switched from football to soccer in high school, a choice his parents were not happy about because soccer was less well known in American athletics at the time. While playing at Amherst and, at the same time, recovering from a bout of mono, Skip missed a penalty shot and lost the game for the College. He wanted to quit, but Coach Rostas persuaded him to stay. This was the beginning of a long connection that would shape Skip’s life and career.

While Skip played varsity soccer at Amherst—and was named an All-American soccer player his senior year—Coach Rostas invited him to help coach the freshman team. After graduating with a degree in American Studies, Skip taught and coached varsity soccer at his former high school, Episcopal Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania, bringing the team to several Inter-Academic League championships.

Skip weaved together education and coaching throughout the rest of his career, much like his mentor Coach Rostas, who was also a professor of physical education at Amherst. Skip went on to earn an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania that positioned him well for leadership, academic and coaching positions at St. George’s School, and head-of-school titles at St. Edmund’s Academy and Rumson Country Day School. He eventually started his own independent educational consulting firm.

With a gift to the College in 1989, Skip established the Class of 1959 Soccer Fund as a tribute to Coach Rostas. The support generated from this endowed fund will support the Amherst men's intercollegiate soccer program in perpetuity.

Fran, a 1962 graduate of Smith College, had her own busy career. After raising her and Skip’s three children, Abbitt, Jeremy and Tiernan, she served as president and CEO of the Pascale Sykes Foundation, which she and Skip founded in 1992 to help support New Jersey’s struggling families during difficult economic times.

Though Skip passed away in 2019, Fran continues to support the Class of 1959 Soccer Fund. It is one small way she celebrates her 57-year marriage to Skip and honors his respect and gratitude for Coach Rostas, whose seal of approval endorsed their long and happy connection.